Scholarship has a high concept of itself. It also proclaims a high ethical standard for its members, including a scrupulous regard for the intellectual property of others. Hence the whole apparatus of citation and bibliography in professional work, and the routine watchfulness for student plagiarism in the course of teaching. Respect for priority is sometimes abused, as when the discoverer of a new text refuses to publish it for decades, but it remains a pillar of scholarly self-definition.
Scholarly practice does not always meet that high standard, and for the guidance of all concerned, we here assemble some of the relevant constitutional documents about professional ethics
Documents on Professional Conduct
- The Basic AAUP Statement. This was passed in 1966 and amended in 1987. As amended, it is the basic written statement of the obligation of scholars to respect priority in discovery and publication. AAUP does not itself monitor individual performance (as it does the performance of institutions), but leaves investigation and enforcement to the respective employing institutions, who in any case have available the full range of sanctions in cases of appropriation or plagiarism.
- The University of Delaware Faculty Handbook: Personnel Policies for Faculty. Like many institutions, the Delaware faculty handbook incorporates the AAUP statement intact as its basic expectation of professional conduct.
- The University of Pennsylvania Faculty Handbook: Procedures Regarding Misconduct in Research. Similar to the above, except much more ramified in spelling out procedures for investigation. Many more variants could be cited.
- The AHA Statement on Professional Standards (scroll down to the Plagiarism section). This variant statement of 1986, most recently amended in 2004 and adopted in 2005, notes in somewhat more detail the than does AAUP the gravity of appropriation of intellectual property, and notes that it may be grounds for terminating, not just an employment, but a career. For an inside view of the AHA's enforcement function, which has now been terminated, see Hoffer Past Imperfect (2004).
For further nuances, see the Fraud page.
Victims of intellectual property theft have in the past had little practical recourse against the thieves. Appropriation of student work by faculty, when it has been challenged by the student, has typically resulted in the departure of the student. That situation may be changing as we enter the new century. Some institutions which had not adopted the AAUP statement have now done so, and procedures for enforcement have sometimes been made more realistic. Some faculty rules are proactive, and require that those knowing of a violation are obligated to report it, and face equal sanctions if they fail to do so. This change probably has two causes, both of them external: (1) government concern with dishonesty in contract research in the science area, and (2) public disapproval of academic and journalistic dishonesty in the humanities area. Whatever the cause, the result is welcome. We of the Project intend to do our part in stating basic principles, enjoining their observance, and when all else fails, helping to publicize abuses. For offenses against community expectations, the community is itself the only recourse.
6 Feb 2006 / Contact The Project / Exit to Home Page